Bayer Leverkusen are not giving up their pursuit of Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund as the season nears its climax.
With only three games to close a five-point gap, the onus is on Leverkusen to take maximum points, while hoping that Dortmund slip up in their remaining three matches.
Leverkusen manager Jupp Heynckes – who will leave the club for Bayern Munich at the end of the season – needs only to look at history to see that such a feat is not impossible.
The roles were reversed in the 2001/02 season, with Leverkusen five points clear of Dortmund. But a late push from Dortmund saw them close that gap and claim the title, leaving Leverkusen with a score to settle.
But Heynckes was reluctant to buy into the title talk, instead preferring to concentrate on earning a Champions League place ahead of Bayern and Hannover.
“I think we should not get involved in all the speculation,” Heynckes said ahead of his side’s meeting with Cologne on Saturday.
“As I have said before it is a huge performance by the team (and) the club that after seven years we will be back in the Champions League. And we will manage it. I am convinced that we will manage the three points.”
Borussia Dortmund have led the Bundesliga table for much of the season, though their commanding grip on the title has slipped after an unconvincing run of form after the German winter break.
Losses to Hoffenheim and Borussia Moenchengladbach have left the door ajar for Leverkusen.
Dortmund manager Juergen Klopp conceded that the situation can be tense for fans, but is confident that they will soon have something to celebrate.
“It is close of course,” he said.
“And as I have said before, this is not the sport for those who cannot deal with this. The higher you get, the thinner the air. If you are at the very top, then everyone can be put out. You therefore have to win every game.”
“That is the problem. We have only lost four games but still no decision has been made. I am sorry about this. I don’t think it is such a bad thing but those who want to can be with us on Saturday when we go the next step.”
Klopp’s men play host to Nuremberg on Saturday knowing that if they win and Leverkusen fail to triumph in Cologne, the title will return to Dortmund for the first time since the 2001/02 season.
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